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Firebirds start the season hot, defeat Hyannis 4-1 in pitcher’s duel

By Brendan Nordstrom

Jake Hyde didn’t know if he was going to play today.

The first baseman out of Georgetown University wasn’t listed in the starting lineup at first pitch. However, when starting first baseman Aidan Longwell rolled his ankle in the top of the first inning, Hyde was ready.

“I was ready to just cheer on my teammates from the bench,” Hyde said. “We were all ready to go no matter what.”

There were two outs and two strikes when Hyde stepped into the batter's box at the top of the third inning. With third baseman Jack Penney at third and second baseman JD Urso at second, Hyde chopped a hit in the 3-4 hole.

Despite a diving stop by Hyannis second baseman Bradke Lohry, both runs crossed the plate for a 2-0 lead. Urso would be the winning run as the Orleans Firebirds (1-0) defeated the Hyannis Harbor Hawks 4-1 on Saturday evening.

“It feels good to get the first one out, get a win for coach Kelly,” starting pitcher Daniel Avitia said. “First of many.”

Rain has not been friends with the Firebirds these last couple of days. On Friday, the team was scheduled for their annual workout at Fenway Park which was supposed to be followed by a scrimmage against the New England Scout Team. However, rain cancelled the event.

Rain threatened the Firebirds again today with a downpour at McKeon Park just an hour prior to first pitch. Just down the road, the game between the Chatham Anglers and the Cotuit Kettleers was cancelled due to inclement weather. Luckily, the skies were ocean blue in Hyannis by 6:00 p.m.

The Firebirds’ bats were quiet until the third inning when Penney worked a rare walk off pitcher Mitch Farris, who only walked 16 batters in 89 innings at Wingate University last season. JD Urso kept it going with a single into shallow right field.

A popout on a bunt attempt from center fielder Austin Overn and a strikeout from designated hitter Cam Jones nearly slowed the rally. Then, the reigning Big East RBI leader Jake Hyde stepped up to the plate and earned his first two in the CCBL.

When asked his secret, he humbly said: “Guys in front of me.”

It didn’t take long for the Harbor Hawks to respond as clean-up hitter Alex Lane lined a double with steam coming off of it into the left field corner to start the bottom half of the fourth. Lane advanced to third on a ground out, and the Firebirds nearly escaped unscathed when left fielder Ben Williamson hit a broken bat grounder to short, but it went through Penney’s legs to make it a 2-1 game.

It was a low-scoring affair due to outstanding pitching on both sides starting with Orleans’ right-handed pitcher Daniel Avitia. Nicholson said before the game he was looking for one thing from his starter: strikes. Avitia delivered by attacking batters early with six strikeouts and no earned runs through 4.0 innings.

“You gotta love a pitcher’s duel,” Avitia said. “I just get ahead, throw strikes and sometimes go for Ks, sometimes let the batters get themselves out.”

On the other side of the coin, Farris struck out six batters in 3.1 innings, bleeding two runs. Farris, another arm who favors getting ahead in the count, started five of the first seven batters with an 0-2 count.

The Orleans relief kept the Firebirds ahead despite the slim margin. Left-hander Riley Frey and right-hander Sean Matson both went 2.0 innings, allowing no hits. Right-handed closer Chris Clark, who is returning for his second summer in Orleans, struck out two in the save.

“Anytime you give up one run in the Cape, you’ve got a good chance to win the game,” Nicholson said. “That was a typical Cape game. The game was way, way closer than the score.”

The Firebirds added two insurance runs in the top of the ninth when Eddie King Jr. pinch hit for Eddie Micheletti Jr. King cued a slow roller off the end of his bat into no man’s land for a lead-off single. Shortstop Drew Faurot then hit a broken-bat single to right field as a comedy of errors by the Hyannis defense scored King and put Faurot on third. King was awarded player of the game by Nicholson post-game.

“He had a great at-bat with two strikes, gets on base, goes first to third, causes them to throw the ball away,” Nicholson said. “He came off the bench. He was ready to go.”

A Penney sacrifice fly to left field scored Faurot and put the icing on a 4-1 Firebirds victory.

The Firebirds take on the Harwich Mariners at 5 p.m. at Eldredge Park for the home opener with right-handed pitcher Cam Leiter set to take the bump Sunday night.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing Cam Leiter pitch,” Nicholson said, “and I’m looking forward to early starts so I can get some early dinner.”

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